For Better or For Worse

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“How long are you going to continue looking out that window?  She’s not coming back.  Sooner or later you must accept that.”

He didn’t answer.  Her words cut to the core but he refused to believe that Brittany was gone forever.

“She got tired of waiting and decided that it’s time to move on.  Can’t say that I blame her.  I too would get tired of waiting for a man to make up his mind.”

“Marriage isn’t something you take lightly or rush into,” he replied, sounding a tad defensive and resentful.  “I wanted to be sure before I took that step.”

“And are you sure now?”

“Yes!  I’m ready to take that step with Brittany.”

“Well, as they say, too late, too late shall be the cry.”

His mouth tightened in annoyance.  If she had nothing good or helpful to say, he wish she would keep silent.  “Are you going to be much longer?” he asked.  He wanted to be alone to wallow in his pain and misery.

She looked at him.  “Trying to get rid of me, are you?  Well, I’ll be gone in ten minutes.”

Good.  He turned away to look out of the window again.  Any minute, he hoped to see her walking up the street and hear the key turn in the lock.  He had imagined and dreamed of it so many times.  She had to come back.  The night she walked out of the flat and out of his life was still raw and fresh in his mind.  The place felt empty, lonely and dark without her.  He missed her lying in the bed next to him and always fell asleep hugging her pillow.

They had been together for five years and they had been happy years until the subject of marriage came up.  She wanted to get married but he wasn’t ready.  He had seen too many marriages fall apart.  Love wasn’t a guarantee for a lasting marriage.  He had seen couples who loved each other split up.  Was it unreasonable for him to be cautious?  Was it foolish of him to want to wait until he was ready and willing to make that final commitment?

As much as he was in love with Brittany, he was going to let her pressure him into getting married before he was good and ready.  He didn’t regret that decision but he missed her so much that it hurt.  It had been weeks since she walked out but it felt like years.  Yet, hope continued to burn in his heart.  One of these days, she would return and he would be there, waiting for her.

“Well, I’m off now.  Your supper is in the oven, nice and hot.  Your laundry’s done.  I’ll see you in two weeks.  I’m going to visit my daughter in Manchester.”

“Have a safe trip, Hannah.”

“Thank you.  You take care of yourself.  And stop moping about the place.  There are plenty of women out there.”

“I know but there’s only one woman for me.”

“Aye.  Well, I hope for your sake that she’s worth the trouble.  Good afternoon.”

“Good afternoon.”  He got up and saw her to the door.  He reached over and kissed her on the cheek, smiling as she got red in the face.  He watched her walk down the hallway and turn the corner before he closed the door.  He returned to the window.

It was around half-past seven when he decided to get up and have his supper while it was still warm.  As he headed toward the kitchen, he heard the key turn in the lock.  He froze, his heart pounding.  He stood there and watched as the door slowly opened and Brittany step into the foyer.  She closed the door and locked it before turning to face him.  She stood there, watching him.  Beside her were two pieces of luggage.

For several minutes they just stared at each other.  The only sound was the ticking of the clock on the wall.  Then, he was standing in front of her, his eyes restless on her upturned face.  “You came back,” he muttered. 

“Yes.  It was a mistake for me to leave.  I’m sorry.”

“It hurt when you walked out on me.”

“I’m sorry…”

“I was hoping that you would come back.  I’ve missed you so much.”

“I’ve missed you too.  That’s why I came back.”

He moved closer.  “It’s-it’s good to have you back, Brittany.  My life and this place are so empty and miserable without you.  Please promise me that you won’t leave me again.”

“I promise.  And I’m willing to leave our relationship as it is.  If you don’t want to get married, that’s all right with me.”

He pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly.  “Oh, Brittany…”

She put her arms around his waist.  “I love you, Cedric.”

“And I love you, Brittany.”  He lowered his head and kissed her with passion and longing.  It had been so long since he had held her in his arms or told her that he loved her.  It was like the bright sunshine after a storm.

Several minutes later, he took her hand and led her to their bedroom where they made up for lost time.  Afterwards, they shared the supper Hannah had left for him and it was while they were relaxing on the sofa watching a movie, that he told her that he was ready for marriage.  “I meant it when I said that I was fine with our relationship the way it is.”

“I know you did and I love you for it but I’m ready to take the plunge with you.”

“For better or for worse.”

“Yes.  We’ve been through the worse.  It can only get better from here on.”

She smiled and gently squeezed his hand.  “I believe so too.”

Marriage does not guarantee you will be together forever, it’s only paper. It takes love, respect, trust, understanding, friendship and faith in your relationship to make it last Marriage.com

This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompts for today’s word, Continue.  If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.

Her Boss

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It was her first day back to work after a month long vacation in Jamaica.  Since she left there ten years ago, she hadn’t visited until now and was happy that she did.  She had forgotten the verdant mountainsides, crystalline rivers and white beaches surrounded by a turquoise sea.  She stayed with her cousin, Winston who owned and ran a beach resort.

The funny thing is all that time she was away, she couldn’t help thinking about Zain.  She missed him.  When she went shopping, she picked up a vintage wood carved hand-painted vase and a bottle of Rum for him.  She was looking forward to giving them to him.  He must have gotten the postcard she sent.

Winston was a party animal and he dragged her to different nightclubs, bars and house parties where she met all sorts of men.  They were interested in her and she found some of them very entertaining but she just wasn’t into any of them.  How could she be when she was in love with Zain?  Zain was her boss, for Pete’s sake.  Before she became his secretary, she was his father’s.  After Sadiq Patel decided to go into early retirement, he handed the company over to his youngest son along with her, his trusted secretary whom he hired fresh out of university, a decision he always prided himself was the one of the best ones he had ever made.  He used to say to her, “If I were at least twenty years younger, I would leave for my wife for you if you’d have me.”

Teona knew that he wasn’t serious.  She used to shake her head and say, “You and I both know you would never do that.”

He chuckled.  “You’re right, Teona.  I don’t have the courage to do it.”

She knew courage had nothing to do with it.  He was crazy about his wife.  Death was the only thing that could come between them.

On her last day working with him, they had hugged and she had cried.  She had loved working for him and was going to miss him terribly.  Mrs. Patel and he returned to New Delhi.  The last she heard, they had opened a restaurant.

Pakistani male modelThe first time she met Zain, he was in his father’s old office, sitting on top of a table.  To say that he was handsome was a gross understatement.  He was drop dead gorgeous and for several minutes all she could do was stand there, tongue-tied, staring at him.  A slight smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.

“Hello, Teona,” he said.  Unlike his father, he had a British accent.  “My father has told me so much about you.  I’m looking forward to us working together.  Please have a seat and we can go over the company’s books to see where we are.”

That day was a complete blur for her as she tried to get him up to speed with everything and at the same time distracted by his good looks.  They soon came up with a system which worked perfectly for them.  And she soon found that, like his father, she loved working for him too but for completely different reasons.  It was too bad that he had a girlfriend…

The ringing of her phone jolted her back to the present.  It was Zain.   She quickly picked it up.

“Welcome back,” he said.

“Thank you.”  It’s good to be back.  She didn’t think she would ever go away for that long again.

“Come and see me after you’ve settled in.”

“All right.”  After she hung, she checked her emails, deleted many and responded to some.  She went to the washroom to make sure she looked fine.  She grabbed the bag with the stuff she had brought back for him and went into his office.

He was sitting at his desk but got up when she went in, closing the door behind her.  She walked over to him and extending the bag, she said, “I brought these back for you.”

He took the bag and looked inside.  “Thank you,” he said, smiling.  “I got your postcard.”  He set the bag down on the carpet beside his desk.  “Did you have a good time?”

She nodded.  “Yes, I did.”

“Has it changed much since you left?”

“Yes, it has.  I’d forgotten how laid back life there was compared to here.  It was nice not rushing around and being able to just walk out to the beach instead of having to drive there.”

He was leaning against the desk now, arms folded, watching her.  “Did you stay at a hotel or with family?”

“I stayed with my cousin, Winston.  He has a beach house.”

“What else did you do besides go to the beach?”

“Well, I went river rafting, zip-lining and visited Ochos Rios, Negril and Kingston where the Bob Marley Museum is, nightclubs, bars and parties.”

“Did you meet anyone?”

“Well, I met a lot of men, most of them were Winston’s friends.”

“Were you attracted to any of them?”

She shook her head.  “No, I wasn’t although most of them were really nice.”

“I missed you.”  The statement took her by surprise and the expression on his face made her heart skip a beat.

“Sure you did,” she replied, lowering her eyes.  “It’s the first time since we have been working together that you had to work with another secretary.  Did you get along well with Stacey?”  Stacey and she covered for each other.  The older woman was extremely competent.

“Yes, we got along famously but when I said that I missed you, I wasn’t speaking as your boss.”

She swallowed hard.  His eyes captivated her.  “What—what about Amrita?”

“We broke up.”

Her eyes widened in shock.  “You did?  How come?”

“She kept hounding me to get rid of you and gave me an ultimatum.  It was either you or her.”

“Why did she want you to get rid of me?”

“Do you remember the day when you and I were in here working on a project?”

Yes, she remembered.  How could she not?  They had spent most of the morning on it and finished it just after noon.  He ordered in take out and they sat on the sofa to have it.  Over delicious Thai food, they talked about all sorts of things, including her trip to Jamaica.  When they were finished eating and had put the containers in the garbage, she was about to take up her notes when he reached out and rubbed the right corner of her mouth with his thumb.  “You had a bit of sauce,” he explained.

“Thank you,” she murmured.  His hand was still holding her face.  They stared into each other’s eyes and their heavy breathing mingled.  Her gaze dropped to his mouth and watched, mesmerized as it drew closer…The loud knock on the door startled them and they sprang apart just as Amrita walked in.  She looked from one to the other, her expression dour before she inquired stonily, “Am I interrupting something?”

Flustered, Teona muttered, “No, I was just leaving.”  She turned away, grabbed her notes and almost ran out of the office.  For the rest of the day, she relived those last few moments in Zain’s office—when he rubbed the sauce from the side of her mouth and the kiss they almost shared.  The following morning she was on a plane headed for Jamaica.  And now she was back and here in his office.

“I remember,” she answered.  I thought about it a lot when I was away.

“Amrita knew that she had interrupted something.  She sensed that there was something between us and that’s why she wanted me to get rid of you.”

“So, instead of getting rid of me, you dumped her?”

“Yes.  Why should I get rid of a perfectly good secretary?” His eyes twinkled and his lips twitched.

“Is that the only reason why you didn’t get rid of me?”

His expression changed.  He looked very serious now and he reached for her hands.  “You know it isn’t,” he replied, pulling her closer to him.   His heated gaze met hers squarely.  “Just like you know what would have happened if she hadn’t interrupted us.”

By now she was having trouble breathing normally.  And her heart was pounding like crazy.  When she was standing inches from him, he released her hands and cup her face between his hands.  Then he was kissing her.  Now that her hands were free, she wrapped her arms around his waist as the kisses became more passionate.

Several minutes passed and then as things were getting really heated, he broke off the kiss, his breath harsh and unsteady.  “We’d better stop,” he gasped.

She nodded, trying to catch her breath.   “Yes, I’d better get back to my desk.”

Reluctantly he released her and ran his fingers through his hair.  His eyes were stormy as they met hers.  “Have dinner with me tonight.”

“Where?”

“My place at seven-thirty.”

“All right.  I’ll be there.”

He leaned over and kissed her long and hard on the mouth.  “It’s great to have you back.”

“It’s great to be back,” she murmured before she turned and walked unsteadily out of his office.

This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompt for today’s prompt, Courage and yesterday’s prompt, Verdant.  If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.

Sources: The Nature Conservancy; Road Affair; Etsy; Road Affair

Teenage Dating Violence

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My husband and I are watching Greenleaf, the Oprah Winfrey series on Netflix.  I think that if you were to look up the word, dysfunctional in the dictionary, you would see a photo of the Greenleaf family.  They give new meaning to the word.  There are so many issues and skeletons in that family that it makes you appreciate the family you have.

The issue I want to address is teenage dating violence.  One of the Greenleafs, Zora, is dating a pop singer named, Isaiah.  It turns out that Isaiah is abusive.  He flies off the handle and gets verbally and physically abusive.  He got angry with Zora when her mother found a condom in her drawer.  Her arms have bruises which she hides by wearing long sleeve tops.

Whenever he gets physical with her (grabbing, pushing, slapping), he apologizes and promises never to do it again until the next time.  It was the usual cycle in an abusive relationship.  You have the “I’m sorry.  I won’t do it again”, “You make me act like this” and “I love you so much.”  What is sad is that the victim keeps forgiving the abuser and things continue to get worse.  He continues to abuse her and she seems powerless to do anything about it.  He tells her he loves her, makes promises and she believes him and continues seeing him.

No one knew about the abuse until Zora’s cousin Sophia saw Isaiah hit her.  Sophia went and told Zora’s father, “I just saw Isaiah hit Zora.”  Immediately, Jacob went to find Isaiah and punched him.  Zora was angry with Sophia for telling her Dad.  What do you do when you see a friend or loved one being abused?  Do you keep quiet because speaking up could jeopardize your relationship or do you put the welfare of the person above your relationship?  Did Sophia do the right thing?  In my opinion, she did.

But the story doesn’t end there.  Zora runs off with Isaiah but is found, thankfully.  We don’t know what became of Isaiah.  I hope he gets help.  As for Zora, she needs counseling.  She needs to understand that love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, not selfish or rude or demand its own way (like pressuring her into having sex) (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5, TLB).  If Isaiah loved her, he would treat her with respect.  He wouldn’t bully or try to control her.  He would respect her family as well.  Every family has ground rules and Zora’s was no different.  There was one occasion when Zora’s father found Isaiah and her in her bedroom.  After the father dealt with him, he had to leave.  Sophia’s boyfriend and Isaiah are as different as night and day.  Sophia is enjoying a healthy relationship while Zora was dealing with an abusive one.  

How can you tell if your teenager is in an abusive relationship? Here are seven signs:

  • Your child’s intimate partner is extremely jealous or possessive to the point where your child stops spending time with other friends and family. If someone questions your child about this, the response might be something like, “She thinks my friends don’t like her, so she doesn’t like spending time around them,” or “She thinks they’re a bad influence on me and she’s just trying to help.”
  • You see unexplained marks or bruises on your child.
  • You notice your son or daughter is depressed or anxious.
  • Your child stops participating in extracurricular or other interests like gaming or even shopping.
  • Your child begins to dress differently. One example: he or she wears loose clothing because the partner doesn’t like him/her to “show off” his/her body or attract someone else’s attention.
  • Your child worries when he or she can’t text or call the partner back immediately, saying that the partner might get upset.
  • Your child expresses fear about the way his or her partner might react in a given situation.

What do you do if you suspect that your teen is in an unhealthy (abusive) relationship?  Here are 11 steps:

  1. Be observant and look for signs.
  2. Calmly start a conversation with your teen.
  3. Be supportive of their situation.
  4. Focus on the unhealthy behaviors.
  5. Keep the conversation friendly, not preachy.
  6. Don’t place the blame on them.
  7. Allow your child to make their own decision.
  8. Offer solutions to them.
  9. If there’s any risk of danger, call the police.
  10. Expect more conversations in the future.
  11. Don’t get discouraged if they refuse to talk to you.

I see that in season 3 of Greenleaf, Zora will get back together with Isaiah.  But, hope is on the horizon.  It looks like she will come to her senses and dump him for good.

If you have a teenage daughter, let her know that she is precious and of great value and that she deserves to be with a guy who can appreciate her.

Sources:  National Domestic Violence Hotline; Grown & Flown

In Danger

His fiancée, Madeline was giving a lecture at the university and he encouraged his students to attend.  He hoped that one in particular would attend.  Yesterday, he had approached her about it.  She was leaning against a tree, gazing off in the distance when he joined her.

She started when she turned and saw him standing there.  A guarded expression came over her face.  She always seemed so reserved around him.  He couldn’t get her to open up.  Sometimes he got the impression that life was hard for her.  He wanted to know so much more about her.  She intrigued him—more than he cared to admit.  Even now, he realized that being alone with her like this wasn’t a good idea.  He couldn’t stop staring at her.  She wasn’t beautiful or even pretty but her face beguiled him.  Long after he dismissed the class and she had walked out of the classroom, an image of her face would linger.  He found himself thinking about her constantly and feeling guilty about it because of Madeline.

“I’m sorry, Marcy.  I didn’t mean to startle you.”

The expression on her face was a mixture of shyness and apprehension, though why the latter, he wasn’t sure.  She had nothing to fear from him or did she?

black girl with short hair“It’s all right, Professor Bonneville,” she said.  “You didn’t startle me.”

When he realized that he was staring at her, he shifted his gaze to the scene before them.  “This is one of the reasons why I chose to teach here at King’s College.  During my breaks I love to come here and relax by the River Cam.”

She followed his gaze.  “Yes, I like to come here too in between classes and watch the students punt.  Sometimes I have my lunch here under this tree.”

He found himself wanting to be here when she was.  There’s wasn’t anything wrong with them spending time together here in the open, was there?  He forced himself to focus on the reason he had approached her.  “I have to leave shortly,” he informed her.  “But before I do, I was wondering if you have decided if you’re going to come to the lecture tomorrow evening.”

She hesitated for a moment as if weighing the decision in her mind.  “Yes, I’ll come.  The topic, Endangered Speeches, sounds very interesting and I’ve heard that Madeline Haigh is an exceptional speaker.”

He smiled.  “Yes, she is.  Well, I’m delighted to hear that you’re coming.  Are you coming alone?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow evening, then.”

“Yes, Professor Bonneville.”

It was on the tip of his tongue to say, “Please call me, Leighton,” instead, he said, “Enjoy the rest of your afternoon.”

“Thank you.”

He turned and walked away.

The following evening came and he stood in the Great Hall talking to different people but his eyes were constantly moving to the doors as students filed in.  He really hoped she would come.  He glanced at his watch.  In fifteen minutes the lecture would start.

“What a great turnout,” Madeline commented, sounding quite pleased.  “You did a remarkable job getting the students to come.  I should hire you to be my PR person.”

He glanced down at her.  “I think your reputation as a great speaker had something to do with it,” he remarked with a smile before turning his attention back to the doors.  Where was she?  And then, he saw her.  His countenance brightened.  “Excuse me,” he said to Madeline before he hurried over to where she stood just beside one of the doors as if trying to decide where she was going to sit.  “I was beginning to think that you weren’t coming,” he said.

“I had to wait a while for the bus,” she explained, sounding apologetic.  “I was worried that I would be late.”

“You made it just in time,” he assured her.  “Where would you like to sit? Perhaps closer to the front?”

She shook her head.  “I don’t want to sit closer to the front.  Here’s fine.”  She removed her jacket and spread it over the back of the seat.  Their eyes met and held before she lowered hers.

“Don’t leave after the lecture is over,” he said.  “There will be a light reception afterwards.”

“All right, Professor Bonneville.”

He excused himself and left.  Her being there meant more to him that it should have.

Marcy sat down and watched him as he made his way to where the speaker was.  He was the real reason why she came this evening.  Granted the topic sounded very interesting and she did hear great things about the speaker but she came because of him.  It was foolish to be in love with a man who was not only your professor but engaged as well.  She knew that Madeline Haigh was his fiancée.  Like him, she came from an elite and upper-class family.

They met a couple of years ago at Wimbledon through a mutual friend.  They have been together since.  It was at the beginning of this year when they announced their engagement.  It was all over social media.  Everyone was thrilled, except her.  Before she enrolled in his class this semester, she used to see him around campus and admire him from afar.  He was the youngest of the professors at the university and extremely handsome.

It was hard being around him because of her feelings.  She couldn’t be sure if he was aware of them.  She tried to hide them as best as she could.  There were times, like yesterday, when she sensed that there was something between them but always ended up dismissing it as wishful thinking.  And yet…The lecture began and she tried to concentrate on it.

After it was over, everyone filed out.  Many stayed for the reception.  She stood there by the door and waited for Professor Bonneville.  He went over, accompanied by Madeline.  He introduced them.  “Madeline, this is Marcy Williams.  Miss Williams is one of my top students.”

Madeline shook her hand.  “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you,” she said.  “Leighton has told me so much about you.  I suspect that you’re the teacher’s pet.”

Marcy didn’t quite know what to say.  She was surprised to learn that Professor Bonneville had even mentioned her to his fiancée, much less that she had been the subject of many conversations.  She looked at him and found him looking at her, his expression inscrutable.

“I think you’re embarrassing her,” he said to Madeline.  “Why don’t we go and have some refreshments now?”

They left the hall and went to area where the refreshments were.  While Madeline chatted with the students and faculty, Professor Bonneville stood next to Marcy who felt really out of place.  She wasn’t keen on social gatherings.  She planned on leaving in half-hour.

“Are you glad you came?” he asked her.

“Yes.”

“I’m glad you did too,” he said.  “Do you live far from here?”

“It takes me half hour to get here.”

“May I give you a lift home?”

She looked him.  “If it isn’t too much trouble.”

“It isn’t.”

“Thank you, Professor Bonneville.”

“Please call me, Leighton…Marcy.”

The way he said her name made her pulse race.  “Thank you, Leighton…” Their eyes were locked in a steady gaze.  Surprisingly, no one else seemed to notice.

Hearing her say his name thrilled him and made his heart beat faster.  It was no use denying it.  He was deeply attracted to her.  Right now, he wished that they were somewhere else, alone.   “Do you have a boyfriend?” he heard himself ask.

She shook her head.  “No.”

“Are you busy tomorrow evening?” Tomorrow was Saturday.

Again she shook her head.  “No.”  Her heart was pounding now as she wondered about him asking all of these questions.

“Do you like classical music?”

“Yes.”

“There’s a Vivaldi Four Seasons concert at the St Martin-in-the-Fields Church.  I thought you might be interested in going.”

“What-what about Miss Haigh?”

“Madeline won’t mind,” he said.  “She’s flying to New York in the morning but she gave me the tickets and told me I can take whomever I liked.  I’d like to take you, Marcy.”

There wasn’t anything wrong with them going to a concert together, was there?  Besides, wasn’t being with him what she wanted?  “I’ve never been to a live concert before,” she said.

“Trust me, you’re going to enjoy this one.”

“What are the two of you conspiring over here?” Madeline inquired as she joined them.

Professor Bonneville turned to her.  “I just invited Miss Williams to go to the Vivaldi Concert with me.”

“Oh, Leighton, why don’t you call her by her first name?  Miss Williams sounds too formal.  I’m sorry I can’t go with you to the concert.  At least you won’t be going alone.  Marcy, I’m sure you will enjoy it.  It’s Vivaldi, if you like his music and being held in the beautiful and historic Church of St Martin-in-the-Fields where my parents got married.  Are you ready to leave?” she asked her fiance.  “It’s getting late and I have an early flight in the morning.”

“Yes.  Oh, I hope you don’t mind, but I offered Marcy a lift home.”

“That’s fine,” Madeline said.  She waved good night to the people still milling about before heading towards the entrance with Professor Bonneville and Marcy following.  It was a bit cold but thankfully, the car was parked very close.  After he held the door open for Madeline to get in, he opened the passenger door for Marcy.  She caught a whiff of his aftershave as she moved past him to get into the car.

She fastened her seat belt, thankful for the lift and the heat that soon filled the car.  Not much was said on the drive to her flat.  Marcy asked her about her field of study and then talked about her trip to New York.  She was a guest lecturer at Columbia University.  Marcy listened but was thankful when they pulled up outside her flat twenty minutes later.  “It was nice meeting you,” she said to Madeline.

“Likewise.”

Marcy got out of the car, her eyes met Professor Bonneville’s as she passed him.  They faced each other on the curb.  “Thank you for the lift,” she said to him.

“You’re welcome.  Goodnight, Marcy.”

“Goodnight, Professor Bonneville.”  She waved before turning and walking up the steps to the entrance.  She couldn’t wait to see him tomorrow evening.  Her heart skipped a beat at the thought.  She wasn’t going to get much sleep tonight.

Leighton watched her until she disappeared inside before shutting the door and walking round to the driver’s side.  He was looking forward to seeing her tomorrow evening.

“You know I was quite jealous of Marcy because you spoke so much about her,” Madeline remarked as they drove off.  She leaned her head against the back of the seat with her head turned towards him.  “but after meeting her this evening, I have no reason to feel threatened by her.  She isn’t at all what I expected.  For one thing, she’s not very attractive, is she?  Although I suppose some men might find her so.”

Leighton glanced at her.  “What if I found her attractive?” he asked.

Madeline laughed.  “Oh, don’t be absurd, Leighton,” she said.  “Why do you think I don’t mind you going to the concert with her?  I know that you’re in no danger of falling in love with her.”  She laughed again and turned her head to look out the window.

Leighton’s mouth tightened and his eyes glowered behind his glasses.  He wished he could wipe that smile off her face.  For the rest of the ride, he was quiet.  He walked her to the door of her flat but declined to go in.  “You have an early flight in the morning, remember?” he reminded her.

“You can spend the night and then we can have breakfast before I head up to the airport,” she suggested, putting her arms around his neck.

He gently disentangled her arms.  “You’d better get your rest,” he said.  “I’ll see you when you get back.  Goodnight.”

She didn’t look at all pleased.  “Goodnight,” she said, grudgingly before reaching up to kiss him on the mouth.

He turned and headed down the corridor to the lift.  There was a time when he would have gladly spent the night but that was a long time ago and that was before he met Marcy.

The following day went by quickly and soon it was evening.  He picked her up outside of her flat promptly at six.  It was a pleasant evening.  Not cold like the previous one.  On the ride over to the concert, they talked about several things.  He learned that she was an only child of her parents who lived in Kingston, Jamaica and whom she spoke to as often as possible.  She worked part-time to support herself while she studied.  This meant that she didn’t have much down time during the week but she made up for that on the weekends.

Madeline was right, she thought when they walked into the church.  It was beautiful, especially in the candlelight.  They found seats close to the front.  She enjoyed the concert so much that she bought the CD which he played in the car on the drive to her flat.

He walked her to her flat and they stood outside the door.  “Would you like to come inside?” she asked.

“I really shouldn’t,” he replied.

“You must be hungry and I can fix us something to eat,” she said.

“All right,” he said.  He was hungry.  He hadn’t eaten since lunch.  He wished now that he had thought of taking her to dinner after the concert.  It was rather very nice of her to invite him in for a bite to eat.  He stepped inside the flat and she closed the door behind him, locking it.  It was a small, modest place but very warm and inviting.

“Please make yourself comfortable in the living-room while I get things ready,” she said after she took his jacket.

He went into the living-room which was smaller than his study at home.  He went over to the window and looked out.  In the far distance, he could see Big Ben.  Behind him he heard her in the kitchen getting things ready.  He moved away from the window and went over to the sofa.  He sat down and stretched his legs in front of him while he looked over the rest of the place.  It was impeccably kept.  Nothing was out of place.  And it was nicely decorated with potted plants, a bookcase, a small desk with a laptop and a handful of watercolor paintings.

She popped her head into the living-room to let him know that dinner was ready.  They sat around the small dining-table.  Dinner smelled delicious.  It was Stew Chicken over rice and peas and served with a tossed salad.  It tasted as good as it looked and smelled.  Afterwards, they went into the living-room where they had Apple Cider Hot Toddy while watching TV.

Leighton tried to concentrate on the program but it was hard because he wanted to touch her so badly.  He turned to look at her.  She was staring straight ahead.  Unable to resist, he reached out and rubbed the back of his index finger against the side of her neck.  She didn’t move away or anything.  He watched as she closed her eyes instead as if she was enjoying the caress.  He saw her lips part and that was his undoing.  He used his other hand to turn her head towards him.  She opened her eyes and he saw in them, the desire that was raging inside him.  Groaning, his mouth found hers and when she responded, he plundered it hungrily.

As they kissed wildly, passionately, he unbuttoned his shirt and dragged it off, moaning against her lips when he felt her hands on his bare skin.  Desire coursed through him like an uncontrollable fire and he knew in that instant that it was over between Madeline and him.  When she returned from New York, he was going to break off their engagement.  He realized then, too that, in spite of what she said, he was in danger of falling in love with Marcy.

Source:  King’s College; Candlelight Concerts; King’s College Job Hunting

A Sobering Lesson

She fluffed the pillows and then reached for the mystery novel she bought yesterday, feeling nice and snug under the thick, downy comforter while it flurried outside.  Just as she opened the book and began reading, the doorbell rang.  At first she ignored it, thinking that someone had made a mistake.  It happened sometimes.  When it rang persistently, she sighed irritably, closed her book and climbed out of bed.  She glanced at the time on her alarm radio.  It was ten-thirty.  Who could be calling at her flat at this time?

She slipped her feet into her slippers, pulled on her robe and hurried from the bedroom.  After switching on the light in the hall, she went to the front door and peered out.  Her eyes widened in surprise and dismay.  Immediately, she unlocked the door and flung it open, her expression censorious as she met the sheepish gaze of her teenage nephew.  “Christopher Holloway, what on earth are you doing here?  Do you have an idea what time it is?”

He shifted from one foot to the other, hands shoved in the pockets of his coat which was lightly dusted with snow.  “I’m sorry, Aunt Bev,” he said.  “But, I had to see you.”

“Come in,” she said, stepping aside to let him pass.  After she closed and locked the door, she turned to face him.  “Does your Dad know that you’re here?”

He shook his head.  “He wasn’t even home when I left.  Sometimes he stays out late.”

“Well, we’re going to call him right now so that he can come and get you.  Do you have his cell number on you?”

He nodded and reluctantly gave her his cell after speed dialing the number.  She took the phone from him.  It ran a few times and then a deep voice answered.  “Christopher?”

“No, it’s not Christopher.  It’s Beverley.  He’s with me.”

“What?” was the incredulous exclamation.   “What on earth is he doing there?”

“I’m about to find that out.  Can you please come and get him?”

“Yes, yes, of course.  Where do you live?”

She gave him the address.

“I should be there in less than half-hour.”

“See you then.”

She handed Christopher his cell.  “Give me your coat,” she said.  He had already removed his boots.  “Your Dadis coming to get you.  Would you like something hot to drink?”

He shook his head.  “No thanks.  I grabbed a hot chocolate on my way over.”

“Let’s go into the living-room.  I want to know why you’re here and on a school night.”  While he went over to the sofa, she hung his coat up in the closet.  Then, she went and sat down beside him.  “What’s going on?  Did you have a fight with your uncle?

He shook his head.  “No,” he said.  “Dad is cool.  No, this isn’t about him.”

She could see that something was troubling and she became concerned.  “Tell me what’s on your mind,” she said gently.

“I’m in trouble,” he disclosed after a few minutes passed.  “I mean we’re in trouble.”

“Who’s we?”

“Tasha and me.”

“Who’s Tasha?”

“She’s a girl at school.  We hang out together.  I really like her.”

“What did you mean when you said that you were in trouble?”

“Well, you see, Tasha and I went to her house after school a few weeks ago.  No one was home.  We went down in the basement and hung out there.  We were talking and then we started kissing which led to—“

“You and Tasha had sex,” she said, trying not to get upset.  “You’re only sixteen years old.  You shouldn’t be having sex at your age.”

“Most of my friends have already had sex.  One of them had sex when he was fourteen.”

She closed her eyes almost afraid to ask.  “Is Tasha pregnant?”

“We don’t know.  Her period was late.”

“Has she done a pregnancy test as yet?”

He shook his head.  “That’s why I’m here, Aunt Bev.  Tasha’s too nervous to go to the drugstore.  She’s afraid of someone seeing her and telling her mother.  I was wondering—we were both wondering if you could pick up one for her and then we can come over here and she takes the test.”

Bev didn’t know what to do.  She felt like she would be going behind Tasha’s mother’s back if she were to agree to get the pregnancy test but Christopher was her nephew and he came to her for help.  “All right,” she said.  “I’ll pick the test up.  Can you bring Tasha here tomorrow after school?  I’m not working this week.”

He looked relieved.  “Yes, I can,” he said.  “She usually walks home from school but we can take the bus here.  Thank you, Aunt Bev.”

She looked at him.  “I hope for your sake that she’s not pregnant.  You’re way too young to be a father.”

He hung his head.  “I know.  Things got out of hand.”  He looked up at her.  “You won’t tell Dad, would you?”

“No, I won’t.  I will leave that up to you.”  The doorbell rang.  “That must be him.”  She got up from the sofa and went to answer the door.  It was Warner.  She opened the door and after they greeted each other, she led him into the living-room where Christopher was.

He went over to his nephew and hugged him.  “Are you all right?” he asked.

Christopher nodded.  “I’m all right.  I had to see Aunt Bev about something.”

“It’s getting late,” Warner said.  “And you have school tomorrow.”

Bev went and got Christopher’s coat and as he pulled it on, she turned to Warner.  “I told Christopher that he can come by again tomorrow after school, if that’s okay with you.”

He nodded.  “That’s fine.”  He took out a business card and scribbled something on the back.  “My cell number,” he said, handing the card to her.

She took it and put it in the pocket of her robe.  Christopher joined them and she hugged him.  “Goodnight,” she murmured.

“Goodnight, Aunt Bev.  And thank you.”

They drew apart and she preceded them to the door.  Christopher stepped out into the hallway and waited for his uncle.   Warner paused to look at her.  “Goodnight,” he said quietly, his eyes lingering on her face.  She wished she knew what he was thinking.  At that moment, her heart was burning with a love she longed to express but couldn’t.   The memory of her sister was between them as a reminder that she could never take her place.

“Goodnight,” she said, forcing a smile before she closed the door and leaned against it.  It was just her luck to fall in love with her sister’s husband.  She remembered the first time Gail brought him round to their parents’ home to meet the family.  She introduced him and then announced that they were getting married.  It was a small ceremony at a chapel and the reception was held at a banquet hall.  Seven months later Christopher was born.  Bev wondered why Gail never told her about Warner or that she was pregnant.  She never got the chance to ask her because just 24 hours later after giving birth to Christopher, Gail died.  Her untimely death was caused by a pulmonary embolism which stopped her heart instantly.

The memory of Warner holding their son who would never again be held by his mother remained with her.  Tears pricked her eyes even now.  She watched as Warner became both parents to Christopher and it was during that time when she realized that she was in love with him.  For years she kept her feelings to herself and was content to be there for both of them whenever they needed her.  And as a result, Christopher and she developed a very strong bond.

When he was a baby, she would sit in the rocker and feed him while humming or talking to him about his mother or his father.  She enjoyed those times when she bathed him and held him in her arms as she rocked him gently to sleep.  Sometimes, she would take time off from work just to be with him.  As he lay in his crib, she would play with him or read stories.  She was the closest thing he had to a mother.  She watched him grow up into a fine young man.  It was just too bad that this situation with Tasha came up now.

Sighing, she moved away from the door, turned off the hall light and headed back to her room.  She hoped that everything would work out for his sake and Tasha’s.  The last thing either of them needed was an unplanned pregnancy.  Yawning, she climbed into bed and after putting the mystery novel on the bedside table, she switched off the lamp.

The following day she made soup and when it was close to time for Christopher and Tasha to drop by, she turned the stove on so that it would simmer.  It looked very cold outside.  Nice, hot homemade soup would do them very well.  Earlier that morning she had gone to the drugstore to pick up the pregnancy test.  It was one of the most highly recommended ones.

At four-thirty, Christopher and Tasha showed up at her flat.  The minute she saw the girl, her heart went out to her.  She looked scared and worried. Putting her arm around her shoulders, she drew her over to the sofa where they sat down.  Taking her hands in hers, she spoke to her.  “I know you are scared but we don’t know for sure if you’re pregnant.  Here’s the test.  Take it and then we will go from there.  Come, I will take you to the bathroom.”  She helped her up and took her to the bathroom and after making sure she knew what to do, she left her, closing the door behind her.

Christopher was hovering about, looking anxious.  She reached out and took his hand, giving it a gentle squeeze.  “Whatever happens, we will deal with it together,” she said.

He nodded.  While they waited for Tasha, he held his aunt’s hand.  Several minutes passed and then Tasha came into the living-room.  She showed them the display.  There was one line.  “One line means I’m not pregnant,” she said.

Bev smiled.  “Well, that’s encouraging,” she said.

“What should I do now?” Tasha asked.

“Wait to see when your period will come.”

“And what if it doesn’t?”

“Hopefully, it does but if it doesn’t, then, you will have to go and see you family doctor.”  She put her arm around her.  “This test is known to be extremely accurate.  It could be that your period is late because your cycle has changed.”

“I hope so.”

“Come you, two, I have some hot, homemade soup ready for you.  Have a seat around the table.  And after you finish eating, you can stay a while and then, I’ll take you home.”

They seemed to be in better spirits and they spent a pleasant afternoon together before she dropped them to their respective homes.  A couple days later, she got a call from Tasha telling her excitedly that she got her period.  “I never thought I would be so happy to see it,” she exclaimed.  “Thank you so much, Miss Martin for your help.  Now I know why Chris talks so much about you.  You’re really cool.  I told my Mom and she was upset, of course.  Chris and I talked about it and we’re not going to see each other outside of school.  We will be just friends.  Thanks again for everything.”

After she hung up the phone, Bev went over to the sofa and sank down heavily, relief washing over her.  She offered a silent prayer of thanks.  Now Tasha and Christopher could put the whole ordeal behind them and get on with their lives.  This pregnancy scare put things into perspective for both of them and they had made the wise decision to keep things platonic between them.  She wondered if Christopher had gotten around to telling Warner.  She hoped so.

The doorbell rang and she got up, her head still spinning from the good news.  It was Warner.  She opened the door, smiling.  “Hello,” she said.

He wasn’t smiling.  He looked very serious. “I came over to talk to you about two very important matters,” he said.

“Okay.  Come in.  Where’s Christopher?”

“He’s gone to the cinema with some friends.”

“Would you like something to drink?”

“No, thank you.”

“What did you need to talk to me about?”

“Christopher told me about Tasha last night.  I didn’t lecture him because I think he learned a very valuable lesson but we had a long and very frank talk.”

“I’m happy that he told you.  I didn’t think it was my place to do so.”

“I’m just thankful that things turned out well.  Thanks for being there for Christopher as always.”

She smiled.  “He knows he can count on both of us.”

His expression changed again.  “The other thing I wanted to talk to you about is far more personal.”

Something about the way he was looking at her made her heart race.  “What is it?”

He took a deep breath.  “I will just come out and say it,” he muttered.  “I love you, Beverly. I wanted to tell you that for very long time but just never worked up the courage until now.”

He was the only one who called her Beverly.  When he said her name, it felt like a caress.  She stared at him now, hardly able to believe that he was telling her that he loved her.  “I love you too,” she murmured.  “I fell in love with you the first time we met but kept it hidden because of Gail.”

“I cared for Gail but I didn’t love her.  I married her because she was pregnant.  I wanted to do the honorable thing.  When I met you it was hard but I was committed to Gail and our marriage.  If she were still alive I would still be married to her all the while loving you.”

“And I would have spent the rest of my life loving you,” she said.  “So, where do we go from here?”

He reached for her hand and drew her toward him.  “I want you to marry me.  Christopher needs you and I need you.  What do you say, Beverly, will you marry me?”

She nodded, “Yes,” she said through tears.  And then, her hand flew up to her mouth when he produced a box which he was holding in his other hand.

“Christopher helped me to choose this one,” he said opening the box and taking out the ring.  He slipped it on her finger.

“It’s beautiful,” she said.

He reached up and cupped her face between her hands.  “Yes, but not half as beautiful as you,” he muttered before he lowered his head and kissed her.  She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back, thinking how true the saying was that good things come to those who wait.

Sources: People.com; Check Pregnancy

 

 

 

Sources: People.com; Check Pregnancy;

The Vicar’s Daughter

After she had put some distance between Mr. Rivers’ property and herself, Dora stopped to examine her torn dress.  She was panting and her heart was racing.  She was lucky that all she suffered from her foolish decision to take a shortcut through Mr. Rivers’ property was a torn skirt.  He had set his savage dogs on her, “That will learn you to trespass on my property,” he yelled as she ran for her life with the two beasts in hot pursuit.  How she managed to escape the jaws of death, she didn’t know.  Perhaps it was the Lord showing her mercy.

What a mean man that Mr. Rivers was, she thought.  He was rude and always threatening to loose his dogs on anyone who dared to venture on his property.  She knew it was foolish of her to cut through his property but it would be getting dark soon and she wanted to get back to the vicarage before it did.

She had to catch her breath first before continuing on through the woods.  The dress was ruined.  Sighing, she sat down and thought of how she was going to explain to her parents what had happened.  As the daughter of the Vicar she should have respected Mr. Rivers and stayed off his property.  And she had always been taught not to think badly of people, no matter how miserable they were.  Still, Mr. Rivers irked her so.  She would have to pray to God about him.

She sat there for a while, thinking and then the setting sun reminded her that she had to head back home.  As she rose to her feet, she started when she heard the sound of an approaching horse.  She glanced around the clearing and her eyes settled on a lone rider coming toward her.  Had Mr. Rivers sent the law after her for trespassing on his property?  As the rider got closer, she recognized him.  It was James Hiller of Mannerly Manor where her cousin Mabel worked as a lady’s maid to his mother.

This was the first time she had seen him in these parts.  She stood erect, concealing the tear in her skirt as best as she could.

He drew to a halt beside her and dismounted the horse.  He bowed and she curtsied.  “Miss Baker,” he said.  “What are you doing out here?”

“I went for a walk and was on my way home when I heard you approaching.”

“It is getting dark.  Please permit me to take you home.”

The thought of sitting on the horse terrified her.  “Oh, no, Mr. Hiller, I would rather walk.”

He smiled.  “Nelson will not harm you, I assure you.”

“Nelson?” She looked at the horse and then at him in surprise.

“I named him Nelson after my uncle who taught me how to ride.  Come, let me help you up.  You needn’t be afraid, Miss Baker.  Nelson is a gentle beast.”

Still not convinced but because of his persistence, she allowed him to lift her up onto the fine steed’s back and then he mounted.  She held onto him for dear life as they galloped through the woods.  She was relieved when they reached the vicarage.

He got down and helped her down.  His hands were still on her waist as she tried to steady herself.   Her face was flushed and her heart was racing.  She didn’t know if the ride was the cause or his nearness.  Their eyes held for what seemed like an eon before he released her and took hold of the reins.  And she stepped back.   “Thank you, Mr. Hiller.”

“It was my pleasure, Miss Baker.” There was a brief pause.  “May I call upon you tomorrow afternoon?”

Her eyes widened.  “Call upon me?”

“Yes, I would like to see you tomorrow.”

“All right.  Tomorrow then.”

“Good evening, Miss Baker.”

“Good evening, Mr. Hiller.”

He bowed before he mounted the horse and rode off.

She gazed after him, hardly able to believe that he wanted to call upon her–the Vicar’s daughter.  She hadn’t expected to see him that evening or that he would even stop and talk to her.  She had Mr. Rivers to thank for that.  If he hadn’t run her off his property, she would not have stopped in the place where Mr. Hiller came upon her.

Laughing, her eyes filled with delight, she gathered up her skirt and ran to the house, anxious to tell her mother that a certain gentleman would be coming by for a visit tomorrow afternoon.

A-Pensive-Girl,-C.1865

Rescued

She came from Niger, a place notorious for child marriage.

Her name is Abayomi which means “she brings me joy”.

She was only 14 when her parents insisted that she got married

Abayomi was filled with horror.  She had heard stories of  girls

as young as seven years  old being sold into marriage.

She didn’t want to get married–yet.  And when she did she

wanted it to be her decision.  She wanted to go to school and

study to be a doctor.   Her pleas fell on deaf ears.

 

A year passed and she was set to marry a man twice her age.

She had a wedding dress and the dreaded day was approaching.

There seemed to be no hope.  She thought of running away but where

could she go?  She couldn’t stay here.   She  thought of the horrible stories

she heard of young girls losing their lives when their parents married  them

of because they were having children when they were too young.  She didn’t

want to end up like them.  She didn’t want to die in childbirth.

 

No.  I’m going to fight this, she resolved.  She continued to refuse the

arranged marriage until her father cancelled it.  And to her surprise,

he encouraged her to join UNFPA’s Action for Adolescent Girls programme.

When Abayomi went to the programme, she met other girls who had left

school to marry and some were even pregnant.  She was happy that she had

escaped the same fate.  She had her father to thank  for that.  What had made

him  change his mind after he had been so adamant?

 

She learned that he had met a Christian who told him about Jesus.   Curious, she

asked him what he knew about Jesus.  He explained that Jesus would not have

wanted him to force her into doing something against her will.  Then, he gave

the Gospel of John booklet the man had given him.  After everyone else had

gone to bed, she read stayed up to read the Gospel.

 

As Abayomi read how Jesus rescued the woman caught in adultery from

being stoned to death, she realized that she too had been rescued from a

terrible fate.  She felt the tears spill down her cheeks and sliding off the

bed , she knelt on the floor.  “Thank You, Jesus,” she prayed.  She decided right

there and then to give her heart to One who had seen her plight and had come

to her aid.

 

Abayomi continued with her education and is currently in medical school.  She

is also encouraging other girls to say no to child marriage.  And her parents have

changed their views of forced marriage.  They believe that she should have the

right to choose her own husband and to marry when she is ready.

 

Nigerian Girl

Sources:  UNFPA; The Telegraph; BBC